JAMES CHAPPEL. Weigel’s ‘Irony of Modern Catholic History’ in review.

The pope is far less in control of his flock than most people realize. This has always been the case: no leader in history, let alone one in charge of a billion people across the globe, has been able to claim absolute obedience. It is especially true, though, of Pope Francis, and especially true in the United States. Here, the standard-issue neglect of papal missives coincides with a well-financed effort to conquer the Catholic public sphere in the name of clerical conservatism and libertarian economics. Over the centuries, popes have had to deal with all manner of challenges to their rule, including military ones. And while some of those were devastating to the church, perhaps none were as corrosive as this one to the world the church calls home.

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RYAN MANUEL. The Hong Kong Government is as Leaderless as the Protesters (Foreign Policy, 5 September 2019)

A distant Beijing and a shifting protest movement make it hard to sit down at the bargaining table.

Bruce Lee didn’t like conventional fighting styles, finding them too rigid. Instead, like jazz musicians with their scales, he took his many years of repetitive training in various martial arts and riffed on them to try and take people by surprise, hitting them hard from odd angles. He was a street fighter, not a prizefighter. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | 4 Comments

CÉSAR RODRIGUÉZ GARAVITO. Bolsonaro is a Regional Threat

President Bolsonaro of Brazil is behind a policy of clearing the Amazon rainforest for more cattle farming and agriculture. He claims that this is a matter for Brazil and no one else. The Amazon basin does not just belong to Brazil. Parts of it are in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. The Amazon rainforest influences the weather patterns throughout the whole of South America. More importantly it is a significant source of carbon capture for the whole world. Continue reading

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BEN EHRENREICH. The End of the Frontier Myth. – America can no longer run from its past (The Guardian 31-7-19)

The idea of the frontier in US history has been one of endless promise, but the reality has involved violence, even genocide. As this powerful study argues, its latest incarnation is Trump’s wall.

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Posted in International Affairs | 4 Comments

TROY BAISDEN. New Zealand launches plan to revive the health of lakes and rivers (The Conversation 6 Sep)

New Zealand’s government released a plan to reverse the decline of iconic lakes and rivers this week. It proposes higher standards for water quality, interim controls on land intensification and a higher bar on ecosystem health. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

RICHARD BUTLER. The Termination of a Terminator: John Bolton

The departure of John Bolton from the post of national security advisor to Trump removes from a crucial position a person whose belief in the US waging war on what he identified as its enemies was boundless. His recommendation for every perceived foreign policy problem has been to take military action. He was the fourth person to hold the position of National Security Advisor under Trump, during the past 33 months. His predecessors resigned or were “let go”. Bolton’s departure is easily the most dramatic of them.

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Posted in International Affairs, Politics | 4 Comments

PETER HUGHES. The Sri Lankan family – just a case of bloody mindedness

We await further operation of Federal Court processes before the future of the Sri Lankan family being held on Christmas Island is finally known. In the meantime, it’s worth reflecting on why the government has chosen to take such a hard line on this family. Continue reading

Posted in Refugees, Immigration | 7 Comments

COLIN BROWN. The Indonesia-Australia Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA): A Game Changer? (Australian Outlook, 5 Sep 2019)

Despite their geographical proximity, Australia and Indonesia are minor trading partners. In 2018, Australian merchandise exports to Indonesia were valued at just $6,823 million, and imports from Indonesia $4,996 million. Trade in services was smaller still, as the exports to Indonesia were worth $1,697 and imports were worth $4,068 million. Neither country is in the other’s top 10 trading partners. Continue reading

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ANTHONY ALBANESE. Tribute to Graham Freudenberg (House of Representatives 10 Sep 2019)

Graham Freudenberg climbed inside the soul of the Australian Labor Party in search of the words that lay there. He came back to us with an entire language. When Freudy said the Labor Party was built on speeches, the identity of the master builder was never a mystery to the rest of us. He spoke to us in so many voices, but in each of them he spoke with clarity and power. He moved us, he persuaded us and, in a world where words barely outlast the moment in which they are spoken, he made us remember. Continue reading

Posted in Politics, Tributes | 2 Comments

TONY SMITH. What price an early election? Ten grand a head?

As the Prime Minister looks over his shoulder for the inevitable challenge, the prospect of an early election must be tempting. With the New South Wales Labor Party before the Independent Commission Against Corruption and Channel 9 giving the Liberals a $10k a head fundraiser, the contest might be lop-sided.

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NOEL TURNBULL. Some surprising US news – if you haven’t been watching

It is easy to be alternately frightened, appalled and head-shakingly despairing about what comes out of Trump’s United States. Officials deleting all references to climate change from official documents; immigration policies that make Peter Dutton look like a raging leftie; ongoing attempts to ban abortion or make them impossible to get; spiralling defence spending compared with poor health and social services; and, increasing inequality.

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KEVIN RUDD. Democracy overboard: Rupert Murdoch’s long war on Australian politics (The Guardian 7-9-19)

Australia has become a dangerously complacent country, dancing to the reactionary tune of the Murdoch press

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RAGHURAM G. RAJAN. The True Toll of the Trade War (Project Syndicate, 5 Sep 2019)

Another day, another attack on trade. Why is it that every dispute – whether over intellectual property (IP), immigration, environmental damage, or war reparations – now produces new threats to trade?  Continue reading

Posted in Economy, International Affairs | 1 Comment

REBECCA TAN. How a conservative town in Australia set aside politics to rally for a family facing deportation (The Washington Post, 5 Sep. 2019)

Biloela, population 6,000, is a rural town in northeast Australia. When the town’s first — and only — set of traffic lights was built 10 years ago, residents were sent into a tizzy. Many families still work in coal mines or cotton farms. On weekends, people fish.

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Posted in Refugees, Immigration | 2 Comments

DOMINIC O’SULLIVAN. Indigenous people no longer have the legal right to say no to the Adani mine – here’s what it means for equality (The Conversation, 5 Sep 2019)

Last week, the Queensland government extinguished native title over tracts of land in the Galilee Basin so the Adani coal mine could proceed. Continue reading

Posted in Indigenous affairs | 4 Comments

LIONEL ORCHARD. Don Dunstan in Perspective: A Review

ANU historian Angela Woollacott has written a major biography of Don Dunstan reflecting on his place in the pantheon of reforming Australian Labor politicians. A review of the biography follows. Continue reading

Posted in Politics, Tributes | 1 Comment

YVES TIBERGHIEN. Belt and Road Summit in Hong Kong: Toward a BRI 2.0? (Australian Outlook, 5 Sep 2019)

From 11 to 12 September 2019, the fourth Edition of the Hong Kong Belt and Road Summit is due to take place at the Wanchai Convention Center. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is now in its sixth year since its original launch in fall 2013 refers to the massive mobilisation effort led by China to accelerate connectivity and trade in Eurasia, and also in Africa and Latin America through massive infrastructure investment and other exchanges. It is mostly funded by Chinese development and industrial banks. Continue reading

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MASSIMO FAGGIOLI. Brexit as a spiritual crisis: remain, leave, and an incarnational Church. The whole debate about leaving or remaining in the Catholic Church amid the sex abuse crisis is a form of ecclesial Brexit

In his novel “A Legacy of Spies” John Le Carré ponders the relationship between England and Europe.

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Posted in Religion and Faith | 2 Comments

HENRY LITTON. Joshua Wong article in Australian 2 Sep

Joshua Wong, in his article in The Australian of 2 September, made a valid point when he asked rhetorically “who were the ones who did not give young people a stake in society ?” Continue reading

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ANDREW GLIKSON. From climate denial to planetary arson. The planetary consequences of injecting >910 billion tons CO2 into the atmosphere

Last night (6 September) as fires were raging through the desiccated granite belt of southern Queensland, not a single reporter, politician or anyone else had the “temerity” of pointing out the inevitable relation between coal mining, carbon emissions, global and regional heating and the incendiary consequences.

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MUNGO MACCALLUM. Economy circles the drain.

That muffled gurgling sound you heard last week was either the remains of the government’s economic credibility swirling around the plug hole, or the strangled sounds of ScoMo and his team attempting to put a positive spin over the disastrous national accounts figures.

Josh Frydenberg insists they are actually good news – proof of the remarkable resilience of a basically sound economy preparing to turn the corner into a rebound the like of which you have never seen. Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? Irrational optimism, wishful thinking, is an essential part of his job description. Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 6 Comments

SPENCER ZIFCAK. The Religious Discrimination Bill

The Religious Discrimination Bill, introduced by the Attorney-General Christian Porter, has its flaws. Nevertheless, it walks a more or less acceptable line between arch proponents and critics of the recent campaign for greater religious freedoms. The Government has produced relatively moderate legislation that mirrors Commonwealth anti-discrimination legislation related to race and sex. In that sense it is familiar and justifiable. Whether it is necessary and appropriate is an entirely different question.

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Posted in Human Rights, Politics, Religion and Faith | 7 Comments

JACK WATERFORD. Bullshit and hypocrisy cannot hide behind a Secret stamp (Canberra Times 6 Sep 2019)

50 years of public disclosure has never harmed the national security interest

Brian Toohey is a great Australian journalist who, over 50 years, has mostly rated the public’s right to know as being more important than what politicians and public servants have thought the national security interests of the state. He has often embarrassed governments with disclosure about what is being secretly said and done on their behalf. Continue reading

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HAIQING YU. Chinese students in Australia and our responsibility

The discourse on China’s influence in Australia has recently shifted its focus to Chinese students on Australian university campuses. They are seen as pro-Chinese Communist Party nationalists who sing the Chinese national anthem and shout profane abuse at pro-Hong Kong-protest supporters in our universities in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, Education | 3 Comments

AMJAD AYMAN YAGHI.  The case of Mohammad El Halabi and the rabbit hole of Israeli “justice”

It’s been three years and there have been 119 court appearances. He has been separated from his family and lost his freedom.

Yet even though an Australian government inquiry has found allegations against him baseless, and his charges appear ever more outlandish as more is learned about the case, Mohammad El Halabi languishes in an Israeli prison, charged but not convicted, a Kafkaesque nightmare of the kind in which Israel – with its administrative detentions and separate laws for separate peoples – has become expert. Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights | 1 Comment

ANDREW FARRAN. Brexit – a reconfiguration of British politics

It is not new news that British politics are fragmenting. What we can’t be sure about is how the political lines may permanently be redrawn. How might the two main drivers, Brexit and the next General Election (if and when held), impact on the process and determine political outcomes for the foreseeable future? Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs, Politics | 1 Comment

MUNGO MACCALLUM. Dutton on a power trip.

The Greens reckon that Peter Dutton is a sadist – that he positively enjoys inflicting cruelty on his defenceless victims.

But this is probably unfair to the potato-headed potentate. Dutton is certainly heartless, but his cruelty, while undoubtedly real, is more of an inevitable consequence of his demeanour than a deliberate agenda. Continue reading

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PEPE ESCOBAR. Welcome to the Indo-Russia maritime Silk Road (Asia Times, 5 Sep 2019)

There’s no way to follow the complex inner workings of the Eurasia integration process without considering what takes place annually at the Eastern Economic Forumin Vladivostok. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | 2 Comments

GEOFF RABY. The end of Hong Kong as we know it (AFR 6 Sep 2019)

Tragically, the turmoil in Hong Kong can only end badly.  No good outcomes are available to the participants.  Whatever happens, Hong Kong will never be the same again.  2046, the last year of the 50-year transition, will begin once the streets are cleared, however that is achieved.  Hong Kong could well become a “black swan” event that changes the region and the world beyond. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | 3 Comments

LINDY EDWARDS. NSW Political Donations Scandal would not have been exposed at the Federal Level

To the seasoned observer of political donations in Australia, the most remarkable thing about the recent NSW Labor scandal is that is has been exposed and people are being pursued. At the federal level this behaviour would have gone under the radar. Continue reading

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